Helping Members Advance Professionally during a Unique Time

More than six months since a national health emergency was declared, our lives continue to be shaped by the global pandemic. We’re all eagerly awaiting the development and distribution of an effective vaccine and a return to normalcy. In the meantime, ATA’s dedicated volunteers and staff continue to work on your behalf.

Registration for a fully virtual ATA61 is open and work on the conference is in the final stages. See President-Elect Madalena Sánchez Zampaulo’s column for an update and details on this history-making event. Given the extremely affordable total cost of attendance for this virtual event thanks to the elimination of travel and lodging expenses, I wouldn’t be incredibly surprised if we even set a record for the number of first-time attendees and nonmember attendees. It’s possible ATA61 could be the largest ATA Annual Conference in history. It will almost certainly change the nature of the conference, as it’s hard to imagine that future conferences will not have at least some virtual component going forward.

The Annual Meeting of Voting Members will be held in conjunction with the Annual Conference. In addition to the election of three directors, there are two proposed Bylaws amendments on this year’s ballot. Both amendments would have a major impact on ATA if approved, so I encourage all voting members to educate themselves on the proposals and vote. You can read the statements from this year’s candidates and the proposed Bylaws amendments in this issue. (I’ll note for the record that two additional member-proposed Bylaws amendments failed to make the ballot because the minimum signature requirement was not satisfied.) If you are an Associate member and want to vote, you have until September 21 to become an Active or Corresponding Member and gain the franchise. The Active Member Review process is quick and easy if you meet the requirements.1

Also on the governance front, the Board of Directors held a virtual meeting August 1–2 and dealt with a number of important topics and passed quite a few resolutions. One of the first items taken up was ATA’s finances. The Board discussed the treasurer’s report2 and ATA’s financial outlook. Due to the major economic uncertainties caused by the pandemic, the Board took the unusual step of approving a final budget for the next fiscal year only. Each year, the Board normally approves a final working budget for the next year and draft budgets for the next two subsequent years.

On a related issue, the Board also discussed the economic uncertainty faced by our members and took two actions to ease their financial burden somewhat. First, the Board voted to waive an automatic dues increase that would have gone into effect on January 1 under the existing policy that links dues to the rate of inflation. Dues for 2021 will therefore remain at the current level. In addition, the Board approved offering renewing members an option to pay their dues in two installments instead of all at once. While these two actions are relatively minor in the big scheme of things, they demonstrate that the Board is always thinking about our members and how we can help them professionally.

The Board also approved several other resolutions, some of an administrative nature such as setting the date of record for eligibility to vote in the 2020 election and appointing an inspector of elections. More substantive resolutions concerned revisions to the Board Guidelines for Board Members, the Member Resolutions Policy to eliminate some inconsistencies and streamline the process, and revisions to the Elections Policy to clarify the responsibilities of the Nominating and Leadership Development Committee.

The Board also agreed to allow members to attend the Fall 2020 Board meeting even if it’s online (as expected) and to develop guidelines for members observing such online meetings by addressing some technical and legal issues arising from virtual meetings.

The Advocacy Committee, which I chair, was very busy the past few months working to obtain an exemption to California’s AB 5, which has been disastrous for freelance translators and interpreters in California. Several bills have been introduced to address the issue and ATA has worked closely with the Coalition of Practicing Translators and Interpreters of California (CoPTIC) to have professional translators and interpreters exempted from the ABC test and placed under professional services. On August 17, the day I wrote this column, I, along with more than 50 other language professionals, called into a hearing of the Senate Appropriations Committee to speak in opposition to AB 2257 unless it’s amended to provide just such an exemption.

As we go into the second half of a year that has presented us all with unprecedented challenges, ATA will continue its work on your behalf promoting our vital profession and helping you advance your career. I would like to thank the hundreds of volunteers who selflessly donate their time to make ATA the Voice of Interpreters and Translators.


1.  See for details on eligibility requirements and to apply online.

2. Milan, John. “Treasurer’s Report,” The ATA Chronicle (July/August 2020),

ATA61: Virtually Anywhere for Everyone

ATA61 is right around the corner and there’s a lot to be excited about! While we’re all itching for the time when we can once again gather in person, this year’s Annual Conference (October 21–24) will be more accessible than ever. No matter where you are in the world, you can join colleagues right from your home office to make the most of an event that we look forward to all year.

All conference attendees will have access to the 120 educational sessions for at least six months, possibly longer, after the conference ends. We’re working out the technical details to make the sessions available on ATA’s server for longer-term access. A huge perk of attending a virtual conference is the ability to catch up on any sessions you miss or that don’t work for your schedule simply by accessing them later on demand. You would be hard pressed to find another event with this level of education at your fingertips. So, why not check out the conference website ( and register today! Members can take advantage of the reduced member rate of $299 through September 28. Even if you only attend 10% of the educational sessions, that’s $25 a session for long-term access!

Here’s What Else You Can Expect

AST Sessions and Buddies Welcome Newbies: We’ll kick off pre-conference activities on Wednesday with 16 Advanced Skills and Training (AST) sessions presented by some of the top speakers in our professions. There are a variety of workshops related to interpreting, translation, and business skills. At the end of the day, first-time conference attendees will have the opportunity to meet veteran conference goers as part of the Buddies Welcome Newbies experience.

Mindful Movement and Zumba: Each morning we’ll get the day started right with two options for healthy movement before a day of meetings and sessions. I would like to thank Eva Stabenow and Cris Silva for agreeing to share their energy with us again this year as they lead the virtual Mindful Movement and Zumba workouts.

Annual Meeting of Voting Members and Meet the Candidates: On Thursday morning, attendees will be invited to attend the Opening Session, followed by the Annual Meeting of Voting Members. Members who are unable or do not wish to attend the conference can still attend the Annual Meeting of Voting Members and the Annual Meeting of All Members. We’ll have the chance to hear from the seven candidates running for three director positions this year. As usual, there will be time for you to ask questions of the candidates. If you would like to spend some additional time getting to know the candidates, I invite you to attend the Meet the Candidates event while sipping your morning coffee or enjoying an afternoon cup of tea—wherever you are in the world! (Don’t forget to check out the candidates’ statements in this issue and their interviews on The ATA Podcast.) All voting will take place via proxy this year. You can choose to vote prior to the conference or wait to hear the candidates’ speeches on Thursday morning. Proxy information will be sent to all Voting members so watch your inbox!

Sessions, Brainstorm Networking, and Stronger Together: We’ll hold 30 of the 120 educational sessions on Thursday afternoon. Don’t forget to wrap up your day with colleagues during the Brainstorm Networking event, hosted by the Business Practices Education Committee, or attend our new evening networking event, Stronger Together. Details about these and all networking events and sessions can be found on the conference website.

Coffee with the Board and the Annual Meeting of All Members: Join the Board on Friday morning during Coffee with the Board, or fit in some more movement with Eva Stabenow and Cris Silva before the Annual Meeting of All Members. This meeting is when you’ll hear from ATA leadership about the Association’s activity for the year, including the treasurer’s report, advocacy efforts, and more. As always, attendees will be able to share questions and comments.

Six New ATA Awards: Following the Annual Meeting of All Members, we’ll have a short break before coming together to celebrate this year’s honors and awards recipients. In addition to the long-standing awards, ATA is kicking off six new ATA awards this year. The Honors and Awards Committee has put together a wonderful program to honor our colleagues. You don’t want to miss it!

More Sessions, More Networking, and the After Hours Café: After the Awards Ceremony, there will be 40 educational sessions before a second round of the Stronger Together networking event and the popular After Hours Café, hosted by ATA’s Literary Division.

Closing Session: We’ll kick off the last day of the Annual Conference with a slightly later start. You’ll get one more opportunity to attend Mindful Movement or Zumba before selecting from the final 50 educational sessions. As always, we’ll end the conference with a brief Closing Session to celebrate another successful event and the opportunity to come together, in addition to sharing what’s to come next year in Minneapolis for ATA62.

Exhibit Hall and Job Fair: In addition to networking events and conference sessions, attendees can take advantage of the Job Fair throughout the conference to connect with those looking to hire freelance translators for specific language pairs and specializations. Access the Exhibit Hall throughout the conference weekend, interacting with exhibitors and gathering information about the tools, products, and services they offer.

Get Set for an Interactive Experience!

While nothing beats the in-person experience of a conference in a fun city, I look forward to seeing you—even if from a virtual distance—very soon!

Useful Links

ATA61 Advanced Skills and Training Day

ATA61 Conference Home Page

ATA61 Conference Registration

ATA61 Continuing Education Credit Information

ATA61 Conference Sessions

The ATA Podcast (Interviews with Board Candidates)

What I’ve Learned from Remote Court Interpreting

Since passing the Colorado French court interpreter certification exam almost exactly a year ago, I’ve been interpreting two to four times a week in the Colorado state courts. I love the work, and I’m not saying that just in case one of my managing interpreters reads this. At first, my goal was simply to pass the court interpreter certification exam to prove to myself that I could do it (hello, imposter syndrome). But lo and behold, I find court work both fascinating and fulfilling. I love learning about the legal system and feeling like I’m serving as a bridge between French speakers and the legal system. I just love everything about it.

The last in-person interpreting job I did was on Monday, March 16: a fairly lengthy hearing in a little town out on the Colorado plains. Pandemic-wise, things were heating up. Everyone had to wash their hands before entering the courtroom and the clerks were religiously bleach-wiping every surface in the room. Still, we either didn’t really know or didn’t really want to accept what was coming down the pike. I sat right between the defendant and the public defender, handing pens and papers back and forth and certainly not social distancing. Since then, I’ve still done a few court interpreting assignments every week, but they have all been remote: either over the actual telephone or using Webex. Most of these have been brief hearings, first appearances, or status conferences. The Colorado state courts have put all jury trials on hold, and even longer proceedings like motions hearings have mostly been postponed until sometime this fall.

Pre-pandemic, I had some questions about the Colorado courts’ emphasis on in-person interpreting. Court interpreters here are paid for travel time (at half rate) and mileage, and there are only three certified French court interpreters in the state, so in some cases I’m driving an hour or more each way, sometimes for an appearance that might last five minutes. I sometimes wondered, is this really necessary? Might some of this be better handled remotely?

In some cases, remote court interpreting has worked really well, and it certainly expedites things. The court staff work really hard to keep things running smoothly, and in most cases the remote systems work well enough that the hearings can happen. It’s a far better option than delaying everything until it’s safe to go back to the courthouses in person. However, I’ve now become a much bigger fan of in-person interpreting. In fact, I cannot wait to get back to in-person interpreting, for various reasons.

  • Unable to hear: I’ve interpreted for people who were driving, sitting outside in public places, or in a house with a lot of background noise, making it incredibly hard to understand them.
  • People talking over each other: Especially when you’re on the phone with no video, there’s really no way to get someone to stop talking, other than to try to tell them to stop or to start talking over them.
  • Remote process doesn’t expedite everything: An example is when people call in to a Webex conference on the telephone rather than from a computer, so their phone number appears instead of their name on the meeting ID. This then requires someone (usually a court clerk or the judge) to go through each phone number, read the number out loud, and ask the person to un-mute themselves and say who they are (“Calling from 333-333-3333, this is Jack Smith and I’m the father of the victim in the Jones case.”).
  • Confidentiality: I’ve interpreted for a few family court hearings that clearly would have been confidential if they were happening in person. In one case, one of the parties’ children were clearly visible in the background of the video call while custody issues were being discussed, including details that the children really should not have been hearing. Children are prohibited from courtrooms, but I don’t see how it would be possible to require a party to a case to get childcare to take a video call.
  • Appearances: Lots of people don’t show up to remote hearings; anecdotally, the no-show rate seems much higher to me than the no-show rate for in-person hearings. Which raises the question: If you don’t show up to a remote hearing because your phone battery died or you can’t figure out how to use Webex, should that constitute failure to appear? Neither option seems like a good one: if it does constitute failure to appear, is it really fair for someone to face an additional charge because their phone battery died? If it doesn’t constitute failure to appear, what prevents people from simply not showing up and claiming that they couldn’t log on to the remote system?
  • Public participation and oversight: The fact that most court cases are public is a really important component of the U.S. legal system. I spent hours sitting in court and taking notes when I was studying for the court interpreter exam, and you see all kinds of people (reporters, family members, law students, court reporting students, and interpreting students) observing in court. Family court cases and some others are closed to the public, but in my experience it’s quite common to see people watching court proceedings just for their own interest or education. In a remote system, it’s not always clear how or if the public can participate.
  • People not being in the same room: On several occasions I’ve needed to sight-translate things like plea agreements. Those have to be sent by email, sometimes through multiple people instead of being passed across a table. Then the defendants have to sign the agreements via Docusign, which can be complicated since they’re often using a phone rather than a computer. To maintain the proper flow of information (defendant-interpreter-district attorney-interpreter-defendant), the interpreter has to interpret all of those technical questions (“I don’t see where I have to sign.” “There’s no yellow box.” “The submit button isn’t working.”) rather than someone helping the person right there.

In many situations, I think that remote court interpreting falls into the “better than no interpreting” category. If everyone is patient and the technical side works out, things can go pretty well. Using a purpose-built remote simultaneous interpreting platform, which at least some court systems are looking into, would make things even better. Still, I’m now more convinced of the merits of bringing an interpreter from an hour away to interpret for even short appearances, and I’m looking forward to getting back to that at some point in the perhaps-distant but hopefully possible future!

Corinne McKay, CT is a past president of ATA and an ATA-certified French>English translator and Colorado-certified French court interpreter with over 15 years of experience in the language professions. In addition to her own work as a translator specializing in international development, corporate communications, and nonfiction books, she writes books and teaches courses for other freelance translators. Her book How to Succeed as a Freelance Translator has sold over 12,000 copies and has become a go-to reference for the language professions. Her company Training for Translators offers online professional development for translators and interpreters. She blogs at Contact:

Interpreters are a vital part of ATA. This column is designed to offer insights and perspectives from professional interpreters.

Query Sheet Management for Project Managers and Translators

Everyone will probably agree that one of the most important aspects of a successful translation project is communication—with the client, project manager, and linguistic team. To facilitate organized and effective communication between everyone involved in a project, a query sheet will sometimes be provided. These sheets are especially important in large, complex projects where there needs to be a central location for all questions and comments. The most important benefit of having a query sheet is that translators are provided with an organized system for asking questions and receiving answers from the client, thus promoting collaboration and communication.

The query sheet is usually an online form or spreadsheet that can include columns with heading such as:

  • Project Number
  • File Name
  • Segment Number
  • Language
  • Source Text
  • Proposed Translation
  • Questions
  • Client Feedback
  • Status

Because multiple people can collaborate on a query sheet, there are some important aspects to consider to design a sheet that’s well organized and useful. The following are some tips for designing effective query sheets for both project managers and translators.

For Project Managers

Use the Cloud: The first aspect that should be considered is to make the query sheet available as a collaborative document in the cloud using a tool such as Google Sheets. With a web-based spreadsheet, you can collaborate with anyone you grant access to and see their changes automatically in real time. This is particularly important when there are more than two parties involved in the project. You’ll want to avoid sending and receiving the same files over and over again. Not only is this time consuming but sending files back and forth multiple times increases the chances of information getting lost.

Create a Single Collaborative Sheet for All Languages: If you’re managing or participating in a project involving several linguists and multiple languages, I highly recommend creating a sheet in which translators can see everyone’s questions. Depending on the scope of the project, I would discourage creating a separate sheet for each language involved. It’s useful for translators to be able to see all the questions in one place so they don’t ask something that’s already been addressed. If there’s something especially obvious, like an error in the source text or lack of context, it’s likely that every linguist, regardless of their language combination, will want to ask about that. Sometimes you’ll see an answer to a question that you either forgot or didn’t think to ask. By creating a collaborative sheet for all languages, everyone can learn and apply what others are asking. You’ll also avoid having to answer the same type of question more than once.

If the query sheet gets too long and difficult to sort, I recommend adding filters so you can easily show or hide information. The filters can be added in an online sheet or in Excel: select the row you want to filter and chose a filter per value, color, icon, etc. Some of the fields to consider filtering would be the language and the status of the query (e.g., open or closed).

This is a good way to keep everyone in the loop regarding different aspects of the project and for translators to learn how their colleagues are approaching the translation. A query sheet also makes it easy to see which changes have been made and by whom and allows for a more organized system.

For Translators

Catch (the Correct) Phrase: As translators, we first and foremost must keep in mind what the query sheet is used for: asking questions. It’s important to always structure your query as a clear and concise question. I’ve seen numerous times that these sheets are used by translators for making comments such as “This is untranslatable,” or “This would make no sense in the target language.” As language specialists, we should phrase our concern in a way that’s helpful to the client, perhaps even providing some guidance and advice. For example, if we encounter something that’s “untranslatable” we could say, “This sentence would not make sense in the target language for X reason. Would it be okay to transcreate it entirely so that it fits the target audience? For example, we could use ___ instead.” Phrasing the query this way offers a possible solution and positions us as experts. Clients will appreciate this helpful attitude and it will save everyone time in the long run.

When possible, I highly recommend asking closed-ended questions that can be answered by a simple “yes” or “no.” Clients generally don’t have time to answer something that’s not clear and doesn’t allow for a simple answer. By asking questions clients can answer easily and quickly, we might obtain the answer we’re looking for faster.

There’s No Such Thing as a Stupid Question, but: This might sound obvious, but it’s important to make sure we do our due research before jumping in to ask a question. The first place to look for an answer would be the style guide, if the client has provided one. If the style guide is comprehensive, it will usually contain the answer to many of your questions. Make sure you read it carefully before using the query sheet. The second place to look for answers would be the project instructions. These instructions could have been provided in the initial email with the project assignment or inside the translation package. I would say not reading and following the instructions is one of the most common mistakes I see linguists make.

The last thing to do before inserting your question on a query sheet is to do some online research. Put your investigative spirit into practice (or as I like to say, take out the Sherlock Holmes magnifying glass) and research your query online, as the answer might be a click away on a search engine.

By asking questions that were already checked against the style guide, the project instructions, and thorough online searches, you show the client that you’re responsible and trustworthy. You show that you’re a true professional who cares about quality and is respectful of their time. On the other hand, don’t avoid asking questions because you don’t want to “bother” the client. Translation projects usually require linguists to ask plenty of questions. If translators ask smart and well thought out questions, it’s a clear indicator that the project is in the right hands.

For Everyone

Mind Your Manners: This item cannot be stressed enough. Even if you’re working on the most complicated project and your patience is being tested, you should always be polite in your communication with your peers and the client. Believe me, I understand frustration can sometimes run very high, especially when dealing with disorganized project management. However, we must always maintain our best professional self. When asking a question, make sure you use “please” and “thank you.” I often see query sheets with entries such as “What is this?” There’s probably a much better way to phrase this question, such as “Could you please provide more context here?” or “Could you please clarify what this refers to?” This will make a significant difference in the way the client perceives the services you’re providing and how serious you are about the quality of the work, which will lead to a great working relationship!

Be Flexible: If done right, query sheets can be immensely helpful to the success of a project. However, sometimes they can fall short, in which case the team might need to communicate in some other way. Communication is not a one-size-fits-all approach. As a team, it’s important to have flexible ways to communicate between project managers and linguists, from email to chat to face-to-face video conferencing when necessary. Make sure you provide, and are provided, a space to consult outside the query sheet. The success of the project will be highly dependent on the team’s ability to communicate well and work together to accomplish the best possible quality.

For more information about collaborative worksheets, I recommend checking out Google Sheets (, OneDrive (, and

Marina Ilari, CT is an ATA-certified English>Spanish translator with over 15 years of experience in the translation industry. She is an expert in translation tools and managing projects in English and Spanish. She has worked as a translator, editor, and quality assurance specialist for many companies around the world with a special focus on creative translations and video game localization. She is the chief executive officer of Terra Translations and co-host of the podcast about translation, En Pantuflas. Contact:

Business Practices will alternate in this space with “The Entrepreneurial Linguist.” This column is not intended to constitute legal, financial, or other business advice. Each individual or company should make its own independent business decisions and consult its own legal, financial, or other advisors as appropriate. The views expressed here are not necessarily those of ATA or its Board of Directors.

Business Diversification?

I love the way some languages and cultures count. What speakers of European languages call “twenty” is rendered in the Papua New Guinea language of Mairasi—and many other languages—as “one person” (with all 20 fingers and toes combined). As someone who is not naturally mathematically inclined, my early calculating life would have been so much easier with access to such vivid practical images.

Though that is now water under the bridge, I still think I must have talked about TAUS, the Translation Automation User Society1, at least one person times, so I’m not going to go into a long explanation of what TAUS is and what it does. A short explanation might be: TAUS is interested in helping its members, typically large translation buyers and large language services providers, to employ machine translation (MT) more successfully by offering the services of a think-tank and exchange forum for that particular sector of the translation world, and by exploring ways to optimize MT usage. You won’t be surprised to hear that not everyone loves everything TAUS stands for. But while I often disagree with its positions, I have appreciated engaging in dialogue with its team, including accepting invitations to participate in TAUS events, such as “Reinventing the Translation Industry,” a virtual conference held in June.2

I have also greatly appreciated that for years now TAUS has freely supplied translators with one of the best terminology tools as part of its Data Cloud ecosystem.3 And this is exactly where this story starts (but hopefully does not end).

A few weeks ago, many of us received a notification that the complete TAUS data ecosystem (the TAUS Data Cloud) was going to transition to a new platform and system (the TAUS Data Marketplace). As part of that process, the above-mentioned Data Search would be retired by October 31.

I reached out to TAUS Chief Executive Officer Jaap van der Meer and his team to find out more about the transition and to lobby for a reversal of that decision, at least concerning Data Search. The TAUS team understood that my pleas were heartfelt, not simply as a reflection of my personal desires but also representative of many of my colleagues as well. They agreed to think about it again. If they agree, they would offer continued access in the form of a legacy system, meaning it wouldn’t be updated with new data but could still be accessed at the old, or a similar, location. Let’s hope they do that.

But that’s not all we talked about. Jaap and his team also gave me an introduction to their new system and asked whether this is potentially something interesting for translators as well.

So far, TAUS has offered credits for bilingual data that they receive from anyone, including translators, language services providers, and translation buyers. In exchange for those credits, one could download data for one’s own purposes. TAUS found that while this kind of offer might be interesting for some companies, it was, by and large, irrelevant for translators. The team hopes that this new system—a true marketplace where anyone can offer data and actually be paid any time someone else purchases that data—might be more relevant for a wider variety of stakeholders.

Let’s back up for one second, though. This whole system—which, by the way, is partly funded by the European Union—is based on legal assumptions described in a white paper that TAUS recently published in cooperation with a legal and consultancy firm.4 The central sentiment of the white paper might be summarized in this statement: “But, at the end of the day when the lawyers have gone home, we as professionals in the translation industry have to use our own common sense and do what’s right. We have to ask ourselves very practical questions and follow a set of simple rules to reduce regulatory risk and enhance our compliance.”

The paper examines the legal situation according to laws, how jurisdictions have responded to the use and sharing of language data and translation data (the term “translation data” is used to refer to metadata within translation memories), and actual practice across the board. While this might not appear relevant to everyone, if your clients are particularly concerned about privacy and the use of their data, it seems to be a reasonable approach.

TAUS also discovered that it’s often not particularly helpful to look only at “translation data” (i.e., the data that describes the translated bilingual language data if you want to buy it for a certain purpose). Instead, the team developed algorithms to look more deeply into the existing language data and filter out what’s useful for a particular purpose.

So, while it will still be possible to buy bilingual data that matches certain criteria, such as “English>Romanian software localization data,” it will also be possible to have the tool look through the entire English>Romanian corpus and filter out the segments it identifies as helpful for a certain set of documents it was supplied with to find that data. Any provider of the data would be paid based on the number of segments used from their own contribution. The data will be used almost exclusively for MT training. (It could, of course, be used for translation memory purposes as well, but TAUS’s experience has taught it that it’s unlikely).

Also, any data that’s offered for purchase is cleaned. For instance, this would include the deletion of source duplicates with different targets, reflecting different stages of editing (recognize that problem??), as well as large amounts of tags being deleted, the reduction of obvious erroneous entries, and so on. This cleaned translation memory will then be offered on the marketplace, but it’s also likely to be handed back to the original data provider as an added incentive.

When Jaap asked me whether this would be an interesting proposition for translators, I gave an answer I know many of you won’t be happy with. I said that six months ago, I wouldn’t have necessarily thought so. But now, in the midst of the crisis? Maybe.

Clearly, there has been a lot of talk about diversification among translators. There has been the realization that while specialization is really important, it might just as be important to have more than one (so you won’t be completely without work overnight if your specialization doesn’t meet the needs of a time like we’re in right now). But there’s also been a lot of talk about diversification beyond that.

I have always encouraged everyone to have some kind of professional offering beyond “just” translation. Not so much for business reasons, mind you, but more for reasons of sanity. For many of us, of course, the “business” reason now stands in the foreground.

Might data trading be an additional business for some of us? You tell me. TAUS will be able to add to that conversation in the months that follow the unveiling of its new system in October.

  1. Translation Automation User Society,
  2. “Reinventing the Translation Industry,”
  3. TAUS Data Cloud ecosystem,
  4. “Who Owns My Language Data?” (Translation Automation User Society),

Jost Zetzsche, CT is chair of ATA’s Translation and Interpreting Resources Committee. He is the author of Translation Matters, a collection of 81 essays about translators and translation technology. Contact:

This column has two goals: to inform the community about technological advances and encourage the use and appreciation of technology among translation professionals.

English-Czech COVID-19 Glossary

One way to say “to do one’s bit” in Czech is “pispt svou troškou do mlýna,” which means “to contribute one’s little bit to the mill.” For me, the mill was the global COVID-19 pandemic and the little bit I contributed was my English-Czech glossary of terms related to it.

No need for me to paint the situation in much detail since we’re all too familiar with it. It was mid-March and international borders were closed, the kids returned home from college, and we were sewing face masks. As I thought of my elderly relatives isolated in their homes and teared up looking at the faces of nurses and doctors ravaged with welts from endless shifts wearing tight-fitting respirators, goggles, and face shields, I realized that I, too, am a part of this community of humans trying to protect the vulnerable, help the sick, and preserve the way we function as a society. It seems almost funny in retrospect that the best thing I could think of doing was to create a glossary.

It wasn’t just the novel coronavirus that was spreading rapidly. There was an outpouring of information about the virus, the virus-altered reality we found ourselves in, the measures taken to mitigate it, and the research done toward overcoming it. Reading up on all this, I started to do what comes naturally to most translators and interpreters—asking myself if I could express those thoughts and name those concepts in my other working language.

I work in English and Czech and focus on the medical and pharmaceutical domains. My daily routine involves reading about developments in these fields. With the pandemic, major newspapers were chock-full of medical and scientific information. What is this virus? How do we defeat it? What tools do we need? The volume of information was, and still is, enormous. Creating the glossary was my way to get a grip on this information and prepare for the translation work that was sure to come my way. I decided not to keep this as my own personal asset (we translators tend to be pretty protective of our glossaries under normal circumstances). Instead, I’ve made the glossary available for free to anyone who might need it.

Figure 1: An example of several initial rows of the published glossary

The Glossary at a Glance

At the time of this writing, the glossary contains a collection of over 600 terms posted on my blog.1 I first posted 100 terms, which tripled and then doubled in size with subsequent updates. The blog posts contain a table with the English and Czech terms (see Figure 1) and downloadable .pdf and .tbx files that facilitate using the glossary according to the user’s needs (such as importing it into a computer-assisted translation [CAT] tool).

I have great respect and admiration for the work professionally trained terminologists do and feel compelled at this point to explain that my collection of terms is not a proper terminology database but rather what I call a glossary of the “translator’s friend” variety. It’s merely a well-researched list of language equivalents in current use to serve as a starting point for terminological research based on the context of the actual source text.

Choosing My Sources

My primary starting point is the Czech and English newspapers I read daily. I read the majority of articles related to COVID-19 and follow the links provided or research terms that catch my eye. This often leads to hours of terminological fun!

I also read recommendations/guidelines published by major international and national health care organizations (in English, I tend to limit myself to sources from the U.S., U.K., and European Union).

I also monitor legislative documents from the European Union. The major advantage of these documents for terminology research is that they are bilingual, which greatly accelerates term acquisition. I systematically look for all COVID-19 related legislation published at EUR-Lex2, download the English and Czech versions, and do terminology research over these documents.

In addition, I find it important to listen to podcasts and TV/radio interviews. One of the emphases for me was to capture the language as it’s actually used by medical professionals. For example, what a protective gown is called by a national standard for personal protective equipment might be completely different than what medical professionals actually call it.

A great stream of good sources for terminology research also comes from my wife, who is a nutrition therapist and stays informed of the latest developments as a part of her work. She forwards me interesting articles she comes across for me to read and research the terminology. I find this a great help because identifying good sources can be quite time-consuming as there is so much out there.

Figure 2: Working on file alignment using LogiTerm Pro

Extracting Terminology

I usually use the manual method: when I see an interesting term, I simply copy it into an Excel spreadsheet. I don’t do terminology research at the time of term extraction, so this spreadsheet has rows of Czech terms without English equivalents and vice versa.

If I come across bilingual sources (notably international guidelines available both in English and in Czech and the European Union legislation), I use automated term extraction. To do that, I first align the documents to create a bilingual (.tmx) file. There are a number of tools allowing us to do this but my tool of choice is LogiTerm Pro by Terminotix,3 which I find very fast, accurate and quite painless to use. (See Figure 2.) (As an aside, I learned about this tool at ATA’s Annual Conference in San Diego in 2012 and am still congratulating myself on attending that conference and that particular panel discussion where I was introduced to it.)

I then use SynchroTerm, also by Terminotix, to identify term candidates that I’ll evaluate and then extract those terms I find suitable. (See Figure 3.)

Figure 3: Automated term candidate identification in SynchroTerm

Finding Equivalents in the Second Language

I wanted to start this section with “And now for the fun part!” but actually the term extraction and the source reading prior to it were fun as well.4 But really, this part is when glossary creation gets to be its most interesting.

When I have enough terms identified in individual languages (in the first iteration of my glossary, this was 100 terms and the next two updates were several times larger), I treat the lists of terms as translation projects.

I have a COVID-19 translation project created in my CAT tool (I use SDL Trados Studio5), one for each language direction (English>Czech and Czech>English). I add the lists of terms into these projects as translatable files and start “translating.” (See Figure 4.) This allows me to use the functionality of the translation tool, such as concordance search and termbase connectivity. Termbases are shared by the projects regardless of language direction, and I have my COVID-19 glossary assigned as a termbase to my translation projects and update it often, which allows me to see right away if I have already researched a certain term.

One tool I must mention here is IntelliWebSearch6, which greatly increases the speed of web searches. I can easily do several dozen searches when researching each term. If I didn’t have this tool with its automatic customized search capabilities, I don’t think I would be writing this article. I would probably still be copy-and-pasting “covidiot” into my web browser’s search box.

When the research/translation phase is done, I save the target files and paste them into the master Excel spreadsheet containing the glossary. After a little maintenance (checking for possible duplicates, implementing changes to previously created term pairs based on new research), the glossary is ready for converting and publishing.

Excel spreadsheets, although a convenient intermediate step in glossary creation, are not, in my opinion, good to use as actual glossaries. We want the terms from the glossary to be offered to us consistently and effortlessly as suggestions while we translate. Excel cannot do that for us. That’s why I always convert them to termbase files to be used in CAT tools. The universal .tbx format I publish enables sharing across tools and, for my own use, I convert the glossary from .xlsx to .sdltb (this is a termbase file format used in SDL MultiTerm, the terminology tool of SDL Trados Studio). To perform these conversions, I use a super handy tool called Glossary Converter.7 (This tool is tied to SDL Trados Studio and SDL MultiTerm and is not a standalone application.)

Publishing the Glossary

I have a website for my translation business and publish the glossary in the blog section. I described my wishes to my “web guy,” Teo, and let him do the rest. While I have designed, built, and managed my own websites in the past, I realized over time that it’s best to focus on my core linguistic abilities and leave this type of work to experts. Yes, it does cost money (I actually ended up spending several hundred dollars to publish this free glossary) but it also saves a lot of time and frustration. Besides, I’m sure we would all appreciate it if Teo sought help from professional translators when he needs something translated. It feels good to be a part of an ecosystem of experts!

I announced the glossary on several translation discussion groups and on social media. I don’t have much of a following on Twitter so the response there was a bit underwhelming, but the response from the translation groups and from LinkedIn was very good. I saw my hitherto sleepy website go from single-digit visitorship in most months (mostly myself and Teo, I suspect), to around a thousand new visitors after my glossary was published.

Figure 4: Working on language equivalents in SDL Trados Studio

How to Use the Glossary if Czech (or English) Isn’t Your Thing

Chances are very good Czech is not one of your working languages. I hope this article might encourage you to delve into glossary building beyond the obligatory Excel spreadsheet or (the horror!) jotting down terms in a notepad or (should I even go there?) on sticky notes destined to peel off the wall behind your monitor and fall into a dust-bunny inhabited terminology limbo.

If you’re interested in creating your own COVID-19 glossary with English (or Czech) as one of the languages, you can take my glossary as a starting point. Just get rid of the Czech (or English) and use the resulting monolingual list of terms as a starting point to provide your language equivalents. To make this easy, I have published the Excel spreadsheet with my glossary on my blog as well.

Let’s Kick This Pandemic by Working Together

This is not a great time we’re going through right now. We do have, however, a chance to reassess and to come closer together in response to the challenges we face. My glossary is a tiny attempt to go in that direction. I can see a culture of more robust sharing and participation emerging in our profession and I strongly hope this is also a trend for humanity as a whole.

  1. You can access the blog at
  4. Special footnote for my children (on the off chance they ever read this). Okay, this does sound a bit nerdy.

Tomáš Barendregt is a medical and pharmaceutical translator working in Czech and English. He has over 25 years of experience as a freelance and in-house translator and interpreter. Tomáš lives in the Driftless area of southwestern Wisconsin, an ideal place for someone living the dual life of family man and ice-hockey enthusiast. He has lived half his life in the U.S. and half in the Czech Republic. He works as a Czech localization specialist at Blueprint Technologies. Contact:

Remember, if you have any ideas and/or suggestions regarding helpful resources or tools you would like to see featured, please e-mail Jost Zetzsche at

ATA61: Making Your Welfare a Priority

As most of you know by now, we have canceled the in-person conference in Boston and decided to hold ATA61 as a virtual conference. While I’ll leave it to ATA President-Elect Madalena Sánchez Zampaulo to provide the details on how the virtual conference will be structured (see From the President-Elect), I do want to explain why the Board of Directors had to wait so long to make the decision.

Under the terms of our contracts with the conference hotel and other conference service providers, the Association would have had to pay penalties or cancelation fees of about $500,000 if we canceled the event absent a government ban or other “good cause.” Even mentioning plans to cancel could have had adverse financial consequences. We were thus forced to continue to plan an in-person event while we negotiated with the conference hotel.

Experient, our event management partner, and ATA Headquarters were finally able to negotiate acceptable cancelation terms with the conference hotel. They would waive any penalty if we would agree to hold the conference at the hotel in 2025. Once the massive financial loss was no longer a concern, the Board was able to make the decision many of you had wanted us to make sooner.

While we always make the welfare of our members our main priority, the Board also had a fiduciary responsibility to avoid incurring such massive financial penalties if possible. That’s why we had to wait as long as we did to make the decision.

I’m confident that while a virtual ATA61 will be a different experience for attendees, it will provide just as much, if not more, value to attendees. I look forward to seeing you there virtually!

With respect to the economic impact of the pandemic, even in light of the recent uptick in infections and some rollbacks of business reopenings, I remain optimistic about the prospects for the economic recovery of the translation and interpreting industry.

The downturn in national economies of developed countries appears to have slowed and the first, faltering steps are being taken on the path to recovery and a return to normalcy. While it is likely to take years for the global economy to return to pre-pandemic levels, any uptick is welcome news to the translation and interpreting industry, which is inextricably tied to global trade. A survey by CSA Research1 showed that 52% of respondents, mainly language services companies, expect enterprise language spending will either increase or stay the same over the next 12 months.

Here in the U.S., an unexpectedly high increase in hiring (in many cases, rehiring) in May and the loosening of lockdown restrictions on businesses give cause for cautious optimism that the economy and society may slowly return to normal over the coming months.

The pandemic is not the only crisis our members are facing. In California, our efforts to advocate for an exemption for professional translators and interpreters from the devastating economic effects of AB 5 have had mixed results. Senate Bill 900, which would have provided an exemption for translators and interpreters, was shelved by California’s Senate Labor Committee in May. Other proposed amendments to AB 5 were also shelved or killed in committee. It appears that only Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, the sponsor of AB 5, will be allowed to propose amendments that have any chance of being passed by the legislature.

Her proposed amendments in AB 1850 include an exemption for “certified translators” under the professional services provisions. While the inclusion of translators under “professional services” is a major victory in itself—certainly compared with being included under “referral services” along with pet sitters—the complete exclusion of interpreters is unacceptable. We will continue our advocacy efforts, and we strongly encourage each and every professional translator and interpreter in California to contact their representatives2 in the California Senate and Assembly and demand that the exemption be expanded to include all professional translators and interpreters.

  1. “COVID-19 Enterprise Survey Data: Overall Results (CSA Research),
  2. Find Your California Representative,

Conference Planning During a Pandemic

What crazy times! Typically in this issue, we would announce that conference registration is open and start promoting early registration discounts, program highlights, and various networking events. This year, like everything else, plans were fluid.

But we now have some certainty. At press time for this issue, ATA’s Board of Directors approved moving this year’s Annual Conference online.

The Board’s decision was not taken lightly. As the pandemic continued over the past month, the Board acted as swiftly as possible to make the change. (Please see ATA President Ted Wozniak and ATA President-Elect Madalena Sánchez Zampaulo’s columns for more details on moving the conference online, including working with the conference hotel in Boston to make the change.)

As part of our planning, ATA Headquarters has been working with our meeting vendors since late March on the logistics of offering livestreamed and virtual sessions. To be clear, livestreamed sessions are live broadcasts of in-person sessions. ATA61 sessions will be aired in real time from wherever the speakers are located. For this year’s Annual Conference, all the 100-plus educational sessions will be live—not prerecorded.

As you know, the Annual Conference is about much more than sessions. We’re also looking at how we can offer exhibits, conduct the Job Exchange, and foster networking opportunities. Even though we’re meeting October 21–24, we do have time on our side as we’ve been able to learn from other groups that have already held virtual meetings this year. The ATA Headquarters staff and vendors are looking at what worked for these other groups and what could be done better. We’ll share more about these events as they develop.

One certainty that we’ve taken from the planning process is that future conferences will include livestreamed sessions. This will provide greater access to the top-level educational sessions while still providing valuable networking opportunities to those who can attend in person.

We’re committed to holding in-person events once it’s safe for all. As you’re looking down the road, the Annual Conference schedule is Minneapolis in 2021, Los Angeles in 2022, Miami in 2023, Portland, Oregon in 2024, and Boston in 2025. (Boston was rescheduled as part of the negotiations to cancel this year’s onsite event.)

Registration should be online in early August. We’ll keep you posted along the way. Please plan on attending whether it’s your first conference or your twenty-first. The opportunity to share time with colleagues is certain to be welcomed by all, perhaps bringing a sense of normalcy at a time when so much is uncertain.

ATA Elections 2020: Final Slate of Candidates

ATA will hold its regularly scheduled elections during the upcoming virtual 2020 ATA Annual Conference to elect three directors for a three-year term. Candidate statements and photos of the candidates will appear in the September/October issue of The ATA Chronicle and on ATA’s website.

The slate of candidates for election has been finalized.

Director (three positions, three-year terms):
Robin Bonthrone
Veronika Demichelis
Tony Guerra
Manako Ihaya
Elena Langdon
Lorena Ortiz Schneider
Robert Sette

Acoustic Shock: What Interpreters Need to Know

(The following was originally published on the blog of ATA’s Interpreters Division,

Acoustic shock can have very serious implications for interpreters but we’re not paying enough attention to it. This issue has gained more awareness in the context of remote interpreting during the pandemic, but also in the context of colleagues who experienced acoustic shock while working in Canada, Paris, and other places. As interpreters, we need to educate ourselves about this condition.

Let’s start with a definition. There are several definitions out there, including: exposure to sudden, loud, shocking, or startling noises, usually in one ear, which may subsequently develop into painful symptoms.1 Acoustic shock can have many symptoms. It could manifest as physical symptoms like headaches, tinnitus, nausea, hyperacusis (a collapsed tolerance to usual environmental sounds), muffled hearing, and vertigo. Other symptoms include numbness or burning sensations around the ear. If the symptoms persist, acoustic shock could even lead to psychological symptoms such as post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and even depression.

Protecting Yourself

So, what can you do to protect yourself against acoustic shock and its consequences? You could start by purchasing a limiter. Limiters are not widely used in the world of interpreting, but they are in the world of television and the music industry. These small pieces of equipment act as a middleman between your headphones and the interpreter console or computer. They inhibit any sudden surges2 in sound from reaching dangerous levels. The manufacturers calibrate the limiters to suit the make and model of your own headphones. You may want to check out brands like AdaptEar ( or LimitEar ( You’ll also find headphones with built-in limiters. They may not offer 100% protection against acoustic shock, but they’re better than nothing. Links for more information on the brands and specifications can be found at the end of this article.

There are also interpreter consoles with built-in limiters. So, when you get back to onsite meeting assignments, make sure you know what equipment will be provided. Remember, it’s good practice to ask questions about the equipment you’ll be using in the booth. The conference technicians will be able to provide the information you need to minimize the risk of injury. After all, being knowledgeable about the tools of your trade is always a good idea.

Some colleagues who have suffered acoustic shock had to undergo lengthy medical treatments, during which they were unable to work. At the risk of stating the obvious, our hearing is essential to our livelihood as interpreters. With this in mind, you might want to look into purchasing an occupational accident insurance policy. These policies are designed to cover any periods of unemployment that may arise as a result of an occupational accident, but make sure to check if acoustic shock qualifies. Having this type of coverage in place will minimize the financial impact if you do suffer an injury.

Something else for conference interpreters to keep in mind when we do start traveling again is that certain types of planes can be very noisy. Using noise-canceling headphones when traveling can help protect your ears. It’s also a good idea to have regular hearing checkups as you may not be aware that your hearing is deteriorating.

Safety Is Your Responsibility

When we do in-person interpreting, we often rely on others to ensure that the equipment functions properly. However, under the current circumstances when we’re all working from home, that responsibility falls on us. Properly functioning equipment will go a long way toward ensuring our safety and peace of mind in troubling times.

  1. Milhinch, Janice. “Acoustic Shock Injury: Real or Imaginary?”
  2. You can learn more about surges in an article on decibels by Cyril Flerov, a Russian conference interpreter and executive director of the American Association of Language Specialists. See: Flerov, Cyril. “What Every Interpreter Must Know about Decibels,”
Additional Resources

Bowman, Naomi. “How to Choose a Headset for Remote Simultaneous Interpreting,”

Flerov, Cyril. “How to Use Audio Equalization and Compression to Partially Mitigate Effects of Toxic Sound in Remote Interpretation,”

The International Association of Conference Interpreters put together a listing of headsets that are compliant with the International Organization for Standardization:

Maha El-Metwally is a conference interpreter who works for a wide range of international organizations, including the European Institutions and the United Nations. In addition to ATA, she is a member of the International Association of Conference Interpreters and the Chartered Institute of Linguists. She serves on the Board of the Institute of Translation and Interpreting, where she is also a member of the Admissions Committee. She is associated with a number of universities in the U.K. and abroad where she contributes to the curricula. Having obtained an MA in interpreter training from the University of Geneva, she offers training on technology for interpreters and remote interpreting. Contact:

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